Thursday, December 24, 2015

When Christ Came

    It's the night before Christmas, and all through the house, chaos is reigning, with noise from the couch. :) It's Christmas Eve tonight, and while I've had another post spinning around in my mind for the last week or so that I wanted to write, I am going to take a step back and spend a couple days (tonight and tomorrow) talking about Christmas.

     As we glide through Christmas season here in America, it's easy to get the idea that Christmas is all about peace on earth, goodwill, and lovely things. Our culture dictates that Christmas is shaped in such a way that we see the part we want to see and miss the rest, more specifically, the things that made "peace and earth and goodwill toward men" such incredible concepts and not just wise sayings from a Jewish rabbi.

     These are such amazing things during an amazing season for a specific reason. I mean, peace and goodwill toward men are concepts that most people ignore the rest of the year, though they're no less true. Why is this the time when people recognize these concepts of goodwill?

      Just the fact that we're celebrating "goodwill" implies there was a time when there was not "goodwill". That's the part of Christmas most people ignore. Goodwill and peace on earth is special because goodwill and peace on earth are the exception, not the rule, in God to earth relations.

     I knew this, but I had never spent much time thinking about it until we read over the Christmas story tonight as a family. We all enjoy and write songs about the parts of the story where the angels appear to the shepherds ("Angels We Have Heard on High"), where the baby is born ("Away in a Manger"), and the magii ("We Three Kings"), right? But the much less often read part of the story is the tragedy that follows the magii, the massacre of every male child in Bethlehem following Jesus' family's flight to Egypt.

     We prefer to ignore that part of the story, or at a minimum, we forget about it. But what this story details is a striking illustration of why Jesus came. There was not peace on earth or goodwill toward men. The earth was torn by sin since the fall. We were the objects of God's wrath and judgment, and as a part of the judgment for our rebellion, death entered the world. Of course, the poetic (and rightfully beautiful part of the story) is that through the death of Christ, death died, but even so, we do no service to a right understanding of Advent by dismissing the evil and the horrors of the state of the world before Jesus' incarnation.

    But the account given immediately after the incredible tale of a miraculous visit from the magii serves as a grim reminder of exactly why Christ came to die. He came to bring peace to a war torn world, to bring redemption to a people born evil, to be the hope of a hopelessly enslaved people. By focusing on the Redeemer, we must not lose focus of what He was redeeming us from.

    Under Him, Is. 9 (please take a moment and go read the first 7 verses of Is. 9) speaks of peace ushered into an otherwise destructive world. Jesus is spoken of us a ruling King and a leader, a ruler, a position that He holds in the shadows now and will one day proclaim in victory before all men. My encouragement to all of you is to spend a moment this Christmas considering what exactly we have been saved from in Christ. He is our Savior. We all get that. But is He our Savior from poverty? Our Savior from arguments? Our Savior from racism or bigotry?

     Maybe in a way. But first and foremost, He is our Savior from the fall, from our own wanton self-destruction. Most necessary to emphasize, He is our Redeemer, our High Priest, our Intercessor, and our Sacrifice. Most of us stop there, but He is our Redeemer from what? Our High Priest how? Our Intercessor for what? Our sacrifice why?

     The Christmas story takes on new meaning when we see that we were saved, not from cultural problems but from death and untold destruction, the results of our own decision. When Christ came, it was not to a beautiful manger full of soft, sweet hay, with groomed animals standing by, watching as Mary painlessly birthed our Lord.

     No, our God was born into a manure stained stable, with a muddy floor and rough manger as the only furniture in the room as a screaming teenager brought her first child into the world. God didn't come into a scenic world, prestine and beautiful. His sacrifice came at incredible cost to Himself. And as His teenage mother laid the God of the universe into a roughly formed, wooden trough full of day old hay and straw, wrapped in filthy rags, she was looking into the face of the only hope for all mankind.

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